Monday, September 3, 2012

The Only Way to Lose Weight Without Thinking…

Losing weight NEEDS to be easy – otherwise it simply won’t happen. Will power isn’t a sustainable solution for long-term success.

In the Happiness Advantage written by Harvard psychologist Shawn Achor, he states that to form a new habit you must put the desired action on the path of least resistance – or, to break an old habit, you must put the desired action on the path of greatest resistance.

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One of the examples he provides in his book is when he decided he wanted to acquire the positive habit of playing guitar on a daily basis. He created a 30-day calendar using Excel and placed a printed copy near his couch with the expectation that he would have all (or at least most) of the 30 days checked of with daily guitar practice sessions.

Unfortunately, at the end of the 30 days, he had a disappointingly low number of checked off days, he only played the guitar 4 of the 30 days.

But, using what he learned in his studies as a positive psychologist, he decided that he needed to put his guitar in the path of least resistance, making it as easy as possible for himself to complete the desired action (playing the guitar each day). So, he went out and bought a cheap guitar stand and placed the guitar on the stand in the middle of his living room, thereby saving the 20 seconds it used to take him to retrieve the guitar from his closet for practicing.

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What was the result? He marked off almost all of the next 30 days on his new calendar, missing only a few daily practice sessions.

This simple example provides evidence that often the only thing you need to do to become “more disciplined” is to not rely on discipline at all – simply make the desired action you want as easy as possible to do.

For example, if you want to avoid eating a whole bag of potato chips every time you open the bag, simply take a handful of them out and put them on a plate. Then, close up the bag, put it away, and eat your small plateful. The additional activation energy required to go back to the pantry, open the bag, and start eating again will often be enough to keep you from eating the other hundreds of calories (not to mention extra unhealthy fat) you would normally consume.

As another example, if you want to start exercising regularly, then go out and buy some nice workout clothes and set them out each night before going to bed ready to use the next morning (or put them in a gym bag, all ready to go, if you want to exercise at the end of the day). This decreases the effort required to workout and thus makes it more likely you will actually do the desired action to improve your health.

If you want lasting results, you need to make it as easy as possible to achieve your outcome – put what you want on the “path of least resistance”.

Fortunately, some friends of mine have finally gotten losing weight right (using insights such as what you just read).

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